NEW ORLEANS — A Texas law banning an abortion method commonly used to end second-trimester pregnancies has been upheld by a federal appeals court in New Orleans.
The 2017 law in question has never been applied. It aims to ban the use of forceps to remove a fetus from the uterus without first using an injected drug or a suction procedure to ensure the fetus is dead.
Abortion rights advocates have argued that the law, known as SB8 in court records, effectively prohibits what is often the safest method of abortion for women in the second trimester of pregnancy. pregnancy. The procedure is medically known as dilation and evacuation.
They also argued that fetuses cannot feel pain during the law-affected gestation period.
Texas lawmakers banned the procedure with a law that describes it as “abortion by dismemberment.” Abortion rights supporters argued in court that a statutory alternative, the use of suction to remove a fetus, also results in dismemberment.
A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked enforcement last year. But Texas was granted a rehearing by the full court, and a majority of the 14 appeals judges who heard arguments in January (three of the court’s 17 active justices were recused) sided with Texas on Wednesday. The opinion, from Justices Jennifer Walker Elrod and Don Willett, said “the record shows that physicians can safely perform D&E and comply with SB8 using methods that are already widely used.”
Judges Priscilla Owen, Edith Jones, Jerry Smith, Catharina Haynes, James Ho, Kurt Engelhardt and Cory Wilson upheld the result.
Justice James Dennis wrote a dissent, joined by Justices Carl Stewart and James Graves. A separate dissent was written by Justice Stephen Higginson, joined by Gregg Costa.
Dennis said Texas law, “under the guise of regulation, makes it a crime to perform the most common and safest abortion procedure used in the second trimester.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights is analyzing the decision and considering all legal options, said its president and CEO, Nancy Northup.
“Texas was determined to abolish abortion through legislation, and it’s infuriating for a federal court to uphold a law that so clearly defies decades of Supreme Court precedent,” Northup said. “At a time when the health care needs of Texans are greater than ever, the state should make abortion more accessible, not less. There is no doubt that today’s decision will hurt those who already face the greatest barriers to health care.”
Texas Right to Life applauded the decision.
“If the abortion industry appeals today’s decision, the Supreme Court must answer the dynamic legal question of the case: ‘Is an abortion by dismemberment inhumane enough to warrant a legal ban? “The statement from the anti-abortion group reads. “The obvious answer to this targeted question directly undermines some of the central premises of the Supreme Court in its abortion jurisprudence, such as the misconception that abortions before viability are more ethical than those that occur after viability.”
“Texans are celebrating today’s long-awaited victory,” Texas Right to Life Director of Media and Communications Kimberlyn Schwartz said in the statement. “Anyone can see the cruelty of dismemberment abortions, tearing apart a child’s body while their heart is still beating. We are grateful the judges recognized this horror.”